By Jerome Whittingham, Editor North Staffs News
A special exhibition has opened at the Brampton Museum and Art Gallery, displaying for the first time the full archive collection of Newcastle-under-Lyme’s charters, all but The Lost Charter that is.
The Lost Charter exhibition is the latest in a year-long programme of events celebrating the Borough’s 850th anniversary.
Addressing the first visitors at an event to mark the exhibition’s opening, Elise Turner, Activities and Events Officer, Brampton Museum, said: “The people of the new castle petitioned King Henry II directly, saying that they wanted a charter for the Borough of Newcastle, so that people could be free, and exempt from all these tolls and tasks.
“The original Henry II charter is actually lost. It’s like so many medieval things, the chances of a bit surviving is so rare. But we know that it existed, and we know the date because Preston, a few years after, made a copy of our charter and it says in there that this is a copy of the Newcastle charter that was made in 1173.
“The actual rights that the charter gave us were pretty basic by today’s standards, but it really was the founding of civil rights, the human rights acts that we enjoy today.
“It was also the birth certificate of Newcastle as a borough and as a town.”
Local illustrator and author Glenn Martin James has been commissioned by the 850 Anniversary Project to recreate the lost charter. His recreation will be presented to the Borough at a special event in June.
Meanwhile, Glenn has been working with children at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, inspiring them with stories of the borough’s history to create their own charters.
Glenn said: “It’s been lovely. I wrote a story for the children about Brother James, telling about how homesick he is, having left Newcastle to go and collect the charter, and what the town looked like, and going to King Henry II to collect it, and then trying to get back through all the dangers that that would’ve presented, and bringing it back home to everyone.
“The children have written the contents of their own charters. They’ve been writing with quill pens, from writing the King’s greeting in Latin, and their names in Latin, and they’ve done a little colorised picture of the King’s image. They’ve made their own charters, there are 60 of them.
“They found out that the castle was actually where their school is, quite literally where their school is.”
The incredible exhibition, spanning the Borough’s history from medieval times to the present day, is now open to the public during regular museum opening times. An engaging programme of events runs alongside, and details can be found on the website.